And then there was one.
The Kansas City Chiefs are now the lone undefeated team in the NFL after sneaking by the Houston Texans 17-16 and the Denver Broncos lost to the Indianapolis Colts 39-33.
It wasn’t the prettiest game for Andy Reid’s squad, with the defense showing some cracks and the offense once again proving to need plenty of work, but a win is a win is a win. And this latest win pushes the Chiefs record to 7-0, good for tops in the AFC West.
In what many thought would be a much easier day at the park with the Texans sending third-string QB Case Keenum out to make his NFL debut, the Chiefs weren’t able to lock this one down until the final minutes. That’s when Kansas City’s defense wrapped up a dominating fourth quarter that saw Houston gain one (1!!!) yard on offense.
The Texans drew first blood Sunday on a 48-yard Randy Bullock field goal early in the first quarter. The Chiefs answered with a Jamaal Charles 1-yard touchdown to take a short-lived 7-3 lead. Kansas City didn’t hold the lead long because Keenum hit DeAndre Hopkins on a beautiful 29-yard pass down the left sideline for a 10-7 lead.
With just under eight minutes renaming in the first half, the Chiefs QB Alex Smith, who didn’t have a great day at the office, orchestrated a 15-play, 97-yard drive. The final play was an awkward looking option that found Smith running up the middle untouched for a five-yard touchdown and a 14-13 lead.
In the third quarter Houston got within a point with another field goal from Bullock, which was quickly answered by a Ryan Succop field goal three minutes later. The Texans finished up the scoring with a third field goal with 4:21 left in the third and weren’t able to muster much offense after that.
Smith and the Chiefs had a chance to score in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but Charles was stopped on third down and a pass on fourth fell incomplete. After that Kansas City’s offense couldn’t do much, but thankfully the defense did what it’s done time and again this year and shut things down.
In addition to Kansas City staying perfect, the story Sunday afternoon was the impressive Keenum. Sure, he came up short in the end, but he had the ball in his hands with a chance to win in the final minutes despite facing one of the NFL’s best defenses and the world’s loudest crowd.
Now the Chiefs get to welcome another team with quarterback problems in the Cleveland Browns. But before we start looking towards next week, here are the three most impressive players on offense, defense and special teams for the undefeated Chiefs.
Offense: Dexter McCluster
He has taken some monster hits during his career, but none may have been harder than the one he took early Sunday afternoon. After popping up from that crushing hit from Kareem Jackson, he took another big hit on the very next play. Just three plays later he carried the ball for a one-yard gain.
After that he was taken out of the game and evaluated for a concussion, missing the rest of the first half. Though it appeared his day was over, McCluster ended up being cleared by the Chiefs medical staff and returned to action in the third quarter.
The offensive weapon turned in a catch for 43 yards on the drive that stalled at the one-yard line and punt returns of 26 and 24 yards, though the latter was nullified by a holding penalty.
McCluster, big hits and all, led the Chiefs with 70 yards in the air on four catches.
Defense: Tamba Hali
A monster, plain and simple.
Hali closed out the game with a sack/strip of Keenum in the final minutes, but he was chasing around the second-year signal caller all day long.
The Chiefs linebacker finished with six tackles and 2.5 of Kansas City’s five sacks. He was leading the charge for a defense that prevented the Houston offense from getting anything going in the fourth quarter.
Special Teams: Quintin Demps
It had been nearly a month since we saw the safety put his impressive 57-yard return against the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then he’d only been able to return two kicks, but with the Texans giving up nearly two returns a game, we knew Demps would finally get his chances.
And chances he got.
Demps returned four kicks for 123 yards (30.8 average), including a 57-yarder setting up Succop’s second field goal that ended up being the game-winner.